What’s in the Water?

First United Methodist Church – Omaha
Rev. Dr. Cynthia Lindenmeyer
Date: March 24, 2019
Scripture: Zoroaster, John 4:4-15: The Message
Sermon: “What’s in the Water?”

Do we want Jesus to walk with us in the labyrinth of life, and if so, what exactly does that mean? As we enter our third Sunday in our Lenten labyrinth journey, how are you? Seriously, ask yourself, “How am I?”

The labyrinth of life: Health concerns, loss of loved ones, trauma from the flood, pain of exclusiveness and judgment in the church, mass killings, destruction of the earth, inequality in the world—over and over humanity revolves in a maze of destruction leaving us emotionally/physically tired. The spiritual labyrinth offers an exodus from this world where injustice and hatred seem to thrive.

The Labyrinth represents a journey to our own center to equip us to go back again out into the world. The reality of our world is flooded with false narratives that sweep us in the torrential currents of fear and despair. I know I can get so caught up in spending energy on these false narratives that I become stuck in the grime of status quo and drown in the endless storms that wreak havoc on my spirit. And it is exhausting. Ancient religious teachings remind us to “Explore the River of the Soul…” The Dalai Lama consistently expounds that great strength flows into us when we detach ourselves from false narratives and free ourselves from the status quo. And that is the message from one of the most memorable scenes emerging from the frantic, chaotic first century world in the New Testament when a Jewish teacher breaks the status quo and speaks to a Samaritan woman.

Imagine that as we continue our Lenten garden exploration in a giant hedged labyrinth, we meet three different people who are returning from the center of the labyrinth, each carrying a jug full of water.

The first person reminds you of that guy who is often at the intersection of Dodge and 72nd holding a sign asking for money. He recognizes the same weariness and fatigue in you that he had upon walking into the labyrinth. You say hello, and ask him what he found at the center of the labyrinth. He replies he was offered water, and given a new perspective on life. He sets down his jug full of water, invites you to sit down on a bench, and tells you a story:

A beggar had been begging for months in a small dusty town without much success. Then, suddenly, he saw in the distance the golden chariot of the King approaching. He started to dance for joy because he had high hopes, believing all dark days would soon be over because he envisioned the King throwing him gold that would glimmer all around him in the dust. The King, however, confounded all his expectations by stopping the chariot and asking him what seemed to be like an outrageous question: “What have you got to give to me?” The beggar thought it was some kind of incomprehensible, even mad, joke. What could he, a beggar, have to give to the One who had everything? Gingerly, with some reluctance, and a little stunned, the beggar took one tiny little grain of corn out of the small bag he always carried with him to munch on. The King took it and went on his way. When at day’s end, the beggar came to empty the bag out on the floor of his hut, he found, to his great surprise, that one of the grains of corn had turned to gold. And the beggar wept and wished that he had had the heart and passion and wisdom to give the King everything.

And then the man picks up his jug and arises, says goodbye, and continues the path leading out of the labyrinth. “Well that was an interesting story,” you think. “Wonder what’s in the water?” Deep in thought as you continue the journey, an older woman appears carrying a jug of water. You say hello, and ask her what she found at the center of the labyrinth. She invites you to sit down on a bench, sets her jug of water down and tells you about herself:

I once had a son and a husband but one day a police officer named Van and his white police officer friends stormed into our South African home and took my son. Standing as close to him as you and are sitting, Van shot my son and set him on fire while the other officers ate what little food we had, laughing. Two years later, Van and the officers barged into our home and took my husband. I did not see him again, until two years later, Van returned and dragged me to the river, where he led me to where my husband was tied up in ropes. He was badly beaten, but his eyes lit up when he saw me. And that is when Van and his officer friends poured gasoline over his body and set him on fire just like they did my son.

At the center of the labyrinth, I entered a courtroom and Van was there. A judge turned to me and asked what I wanted—what justice should be done to this man who destroyed my family? I was offered water, and I drank, and all the anger and hurt vanished. I said my husband and son were my only family. I want Van to become my son. I would like for him to come twice a month to my home in the ghetto and spend a day with me so that I can pour out on him whatever love I still have remaining in me.

And then she picked up her jug of water and walks away.

You wonder to yourself, “What is in this water at the center of the labyrinth?” Walking a bit further, you see another woman carrying a jug approaching. She is literally skipping along, almost dancing. You say hello, and cannot help but grin as she greets you with a beautiful infectious joyful smile. You ask her what she discovered at the center of the labyrinth. She sets her jug down and tells you a story:

Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus breaks the status quo of men talking to women, Jews talking to Samaritans, saying to her, “Give me a drink.” The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jewish man, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

You look at her and say, “You are the woman.” And she nods, lifts up her jug of water and skips away. And so here we are, left with three encounters. Like the three people we meet in the labyrinth, we yearn to be transformed, to return to the source of love, forgiveness and joy.

What water are you drinking? I believe water is the source of our very being, the great healing energy in life. Ask my kids, my response to any life crises they have is, “Drink water.” “Mom, I don’t feel good.” “Drink water.” “Mom, school is stressing me out.” “Drink water.” “Mom, I can’t find my phone .” “Drink water.”

When we are young, we are enticed to achieve success and we invest our time and energy satisfying what we think we need…The status quo of human made domination systems keep us perpetually thirsty, for we can never satisfy the thirst our deep roots need in order to sprout joy.

What water are you drinking? Transformation comes from the Living Water that the Divine offers, not from drinking contaminated waters of false narratives.

The gift of the Divine is within each of us. We can be transformed just like the beggar, just like the South African woman, just like the Samaritan woman at the well. We are all offered the Living Water when we give up those grains of corn we hold on to so tightly, when we allow our hearts to be transformed so we can forgive those who cause deep pain. And then we can enter the spiritual reality that the fountain of water is not out there somewhere, but right here, within, at the center of the labyrinth. AMEN